Most of us have heard the jokes about liberal arts majors, such as this old saw:
Q: What is the difference between a liberal arts major and a park bench?
A: A park bench can support a family of four.
This cliché proves utterly false when one considers the achievements of our alumni in business, the arts and letters, government and education. Moreover, the 21st century marketplace seeks the very skills a liberally educated student can offer—the ability to think creatively and critically; to analyze situations from multiple perspectives; to speak clearly and write persuasively—all with a deep understanding of the past and a keen awareness of the present. Our graduates are uniquely equipped for the uncertainty and rapid change that characterize this global century, and remain indispensable to the health and perpetuation of civilized democracy.
Thanks to their education, our students land prestigious internships in major companies, public sector agencies and institutions. I made note of this last spring when I asked for your help in providing our students with valuable workplace experiences either in your business or by making a contribution. I was heartened by the immediate responses I received from a number of you and by your generous pledges of support for our student interns. I thank you for your support and hope you will continue to contribute to this important program in Liberal Arts Career Services as the need for internships remains and is growing.
But don’t just take it from me. Listen to employers such as Bjorn Billhardt, founder of Enspire Learning and a Plan II Honors graduate in philosophy, who calls liberal arts interns “some of the smartest, most dedicated and potentially successful” individuals he has come across, and he plans to hire many more.
It is no surprise that business professionals are even going back to school to gain valuable liberal arts skills. For example, we recently welcomed our inaugural Master of Arts class in Human Dimensions of Organizations (HDO), created for leaders in the business and nonprofit sectors searching for a more comprehensive understanding of how human behavior and experience affects the global marketplace. HDO is also offering another season of Professional Seminars that emphasize the practical value of the humanities and the social and behavioral sciences for solving real-world problems.
Students and professionals alike are rediscovering the value and potential of a liberal arts education. So let’s put the clichés to rest and start telling the world the real stories about liberal arts majors, who are not only supporting families but also organizations, companies and communities around the world.
Finally, a word of tribute to Bill Livingston, a former Department of Government professor and chair who contributed in so many other ways to this university through his leadership and through the wise counsel he provided to generations of students, faculty and administrators. He will be truly missed by our liberal arts family. If you are a former student or if you are just interested in knowing a little more about Dr. Livingston, I encourage you to watch this series of lecture videos on the U.S. Constitution that our college produced with Dr. Livingston in 2005. They are entertaining, informative and a fitting tribute to this great teacher and leader.
Randy L. Diehl,Dean
David Bruton, Jr. Regents Chair in Liberal Arts